LE Row is a male-dominated environment, but women are increasingly alive to the joys of getting something that fits them – and only them ?– rather than making do with off-the-peg clothes. There’s a very physical reason for this – as any fuller-chested woman will tell you, there is one thing that makes the female of the species harder to suit up than the male and that is the bust. If you’re getting a jacket made, the area alone calls for three extra measurements. Savile Row’s Richard Anderson, for example, always measures “the top of the bust, full size across and under, and a measure from the back to the neck, then over to between the breasts”. That’s in addition to the 18 or so standard measurements a cutter must take in order to make a suit.
Busts are the biggest challenge in finding a perfectly fitting jacket, but they’re also the biggest incentive for women to head to a tailor and get themselves a suit cut – nothing looks more professional than a lady in a sharp, well-hewn jacket made from a quality cut. To support the chest, Anderson uses horse-hair and felt; meanwhile, he favours solid fabrics such as 13 ounce English wool – such suits are serious undertakings. And it will cost you – bespoke ladies’ suits start at £3,600 at Anderson’s shop.
Huntsman, Gieves and Hawkes and Anderson Shepherd on Savile Row are all developing their still-small female clientele. Elsewhere, big name, traditional brands such as Aquascutum and Dunhill are also offering bespoke ladies tailoring – Tamsin Egerton, the young British actress, will be wearing her Dunhill bespoke suit to the Elle Style Awards on Monday night, for example.
If you’re concerned a suit might look too heavy or serious, be sure to choose the right fabric and pattern – mohair has a soft richness to it, while Anderson says many of his female City clients are opting for thin pinstripes – “not the gangster ones”, he says. “There’s also been a return to the bootleg with a heavy turn-up. And the fashion now is for a slightly shorter jacket, which makes it look less serious.”
What should you look for in the perfect suit? “It’s all about balance,” says Anderson. “The relation between the back and forepart, and a little bit of shape through the waist. The sleeve should fall to the bone of the hand so you can show your cuff – the shorter the sleeve, the smarter the look.”
John Hitchcock of Anderson Sheppard, says: “I think women like to have things made. You go into a shop and find something you like – then its not in your size. Tailored suits are slimming and elongating, too.”
Sara Hollamby, City A.M.’s style counsel (see right) and a business image consultant, says: “If you have unusual proportions or if you are petite, a bespoke or made-to-measure suit is a really good idea. If you have a good quality suit made to fit you, in a fabric that suits you, then it should last you many years, and therefore be good value for money.”
Richard Anderson Anderson brings a younger face to the traditional world of the Row. www.richardandersonltd.com
Huntsman A Row classic, and one of its biggest suiters of women. www.h-huntsman.com
Dunhill Fuses glamour with quality, and an increasing female clientele. www.dunhill.com
Austin Reed Has a major womens’ made-to-measure service at affordable prices. www.austinreed.co.uk
Tamara Kanes This is an all-womenswear shop, based around its bespoke tailoring element.